The 33rd President of the United States and his Lesson for Celtic Football Club and Alex Salmond.

4 Apr

Good Evening.

Imagine the scene. A Nice 54 seater air conditioned coach complete with the logo and livery of a nationally known and fully licensed transport company is on its way to a football stadium when it is pulled over by a stream of Police Vehicles. Inside, the occupants of the coach– who are mostly grey haired– are bemused.

Their coach comes to a halt and suddenly one or two Policemen come on board for the purposes of conducting an onboard search– and if necessary a further search of the individuals and their belongings– coats, bags and so on.

The Police are looking for drink or drugs or anything at all really– and the reasonable reason for conducting what would be in normal circumstances an unlawful search, is that the passengers on board the bus are “football fans”!

The following week, the very same people board the very same bus en route to a football stadium. They travel along the same route heading for exactly the same destination– the same football stadium.

This time, however, they are not stopped by any Police cars or subjected to any form of search.

Why are things so different a week later?

Because, on this occasion, the 54 passengers are on their way to a concert– that just happens to be in a football stadium!

This is what passes for modern acceptable practice in modern civilised Scotland.

Many who read this blog will not be concerned with football or with any football team in particular, yet all should be concerned about the marginalisation of a section of society whose only “stigma” is to be…… a football fan.

On Staurday, there will be a protest at George Square in Glasgow against what is now the law of the land and it is essential that as many people as possible– from all teams and clubs— protest and protest loudly and visibly against such a situation.

If you look at the political dressing and stated motives behind the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012 you will find virtually nothing that any right minded individual could disagree with. No one wants Sectarianism. No one wants Offensive chanting in public, or in private. No one wants offensive tweets or messages on facebook or elsewhere…. everyone with a sense of decency will support that.

However, the introduction of this piece of legislation and its implementation is being used as a mask to hide different agendas, particular political and social strategies, and to serve the interest of those with vested interests in certain matters. It does not serve.. and is not being used to protect or advance the well being of the Scottish Public, whether they be football fan or not.

I would presume that no one wants sectarianism or offensive chanting at concerts or rugby matches or anywhere else– and I have no doubt that there are laws in place which would deal with any situation which arises at any of these events. However, when it comes to football– a whole new raft of badly and hurriedly drawn legislation is introduced– and then various parties are then expected to make it work– whether it is good law or bad.

No piece of legislation– no set of laws– stands alone. All areas of law and procedure must and do relate to one another, and must be, and are, implemented by individuals whether they be members of the public, council licencing officials, company directors, officials of a body, such as the SFA, or police officers and their commanders.

Both within and outwith the scope of this particular piece of legislation, public bodies have budgets, targets, procedures, reporting functions and above all else duties– and it goes without saying that there is plenty of room for both co-operation and for conflicts of interest when it comes to achieving any given set of goals.

Legislation affects everyone.

In the main, Football fans are a well behaved bunch of people. They can be boisterous, they can be loud. They can create traffic jams, and by sheer volume of numbers be a damn nuisance if you are looking to get from A to B in a hurry.

However, none of that is a criminal offence. Further, if all of that were seen as too much of an inconvenience for Scottish Society then there would have been no bid for the Commonwealth Games, The Champions League Final at Hampden and we would not have the Edinburgh Military Tattoo each year at the high end of the Royal Mile.

Glasgow would not be building the Hydro to add to the SECC, The Armadillo, The Concert Hall or anywhere else for the purposes of having pop concerts, rock concerts, classical concerts or whatever. Glasgow has hosted Sinatra, Pavarrotti and many major stars from the world of entertainment and all have been a sell out with tens of thousands attending.

Later this year Hampden Park will rock to Bruce Springsteen and the E street band and the crowds will come again in tens of thousands— as they have done in virtually every major city where Springsteen has given a stadium tour. The same applies to Rod Stewart fans, Coldplay fans, U2 fans, Stone Roses fans and on it goes. Indeed the Scottish Football Association seems extraordinarily keen to promote the national stadium as a big concert venue– and it is succeeding.

However, none of those people who attend a concert there will be subjected to the treatment of the football fan in Scotland– even if they are the very same people coming from the  very same houses! If You are a football fan– different laws apply!— and they are badly worded and badly conceived laws. The Football fan is subjected to regular wholly unwarranted, and in my opinion wholly illegal, stop and search routines which the concert goer would never experience.

To perform this task, the Police Force (we now have one Police force throughout Scotland) must have “reasonable” grounds to search. It would appear that the reasonable ground is— ” You are a football fan”— end of story. Further, in some instances, Football Fans find that their bags are being searched when the same bags have been left on the supporters bus while the fan has actually gone to the game! Again– what is the justification for this otherwise unlawful search– because you are a football fan?

What would the average person say when they come back from seeing a concert of choice if they found the Police rummaging through their car?

” Why are you searching my car?”

” Because you are a concert goer– and a Cliff Richard and the Shadows fan in particular!”

It is the sort of conduct that would not happen abroad–  dare I say on a summer holiday!

Yet this is Scotland 2013.

Last week, one Celtic supporter was apparently threatened with arrest for singing a hymn in a toilet during the match against St Mirrin– the Hymn concerned being ” Walk with me Oh my lord”.

There is no suggestion that this was in any way causing any offence to anyone, but the policeman concerned saw fit to suggest that this was an offence under the law and that if it did not stop the fan would be arrested!

Eh why?

Luckily, the same Policeman was not on duty in the Camp Nou in 2004 when Celtic played Barcelona. During the game the Celtic goal was under siege and at one point towards the end of the game a large section of the Celtic support started singing “Sweet Sacrament Divine” in total prayer that their team would keep the Catalans out– which, thank God, they did!

Now, if that second leg had been in Scotland, and had that incident happened under this legislation– would the Celtic support have been arrested en masse? Well according to the Paisley Policeman the answer must be yes!

Not only that, I presume that if the same football fan had sung the same hymn in the toilet of his local church and was caught by the same policeman in mid verse then…….. well either he would have been threatened with arrest once again…… or he would have been deemed not to have committed any offence because he was NOT at a football match.

Football matches are apparently dangerous places.

As I understand it, there are some 900 cameras at work in and around Celtic Park on any match day– 900!!

Presumably there are similar numbers of cameras at other grounds– yet I do not understand why. The arrest statistics at football matches are not huge and in all instances fans know that there is an expected code of behaviour which is, or at least should, be emphasised by the club.

Yet only two weeks ago the Police Force chose to make an example of that Group of fans known as the Green Brigade.

Now, let me be clear– they did not seek to simply enforce the law but instead chose to set a  public example in enforcing the law.

The Green Brigade are mostly a group of youths whose enthusiasm and artistic displays are often heralded and  exploited by Celtic Football Club. Yes they have an alleged “ultra” agenda– although exactly what that is cannot always be easily determined. The Green Brigade create noise and atmosphere at Celtic Park. They and their activities are often misrepresented in a particularly poor national press and their general reputation is sometimes put across as some kind of group of bad boys. They are hardly the Devil Incarnate.

It is not unknown for them to come into conflict with the perceived policies of the club– indeed I have been told that it is not unknown for them to come into conflict within themselves such is the diversity of their views and objectives.

This situation is then capable of being exploited by the powers that be– especially a police force who must seek to implement a piece of unpopular legislation and who must be seen to be doing a job.

The normal– the absolutely normal— course of legislation is that in its early days it is implemented and enforced wrongly as often as it is correctly.

The activities of police forces, licensing bodies and other official bods are challenged through the courts during the early history of a piece of legislation. In that way, the courts set out a framework of rulings and judgements which eventually bring about a workable set of practices and procedures which shows all parties what is and what is not allowed and which everyone works around.

This is standard traditional practice but it takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money……… meanwhile the football fan and the football clubs suffer amidst an atmosphere of distrust between club and fan with political pressure being placed on both.

As President Truman pointed out— the buck has to stop somewhere.

Well– with the Police it stops with the Chief Constable. It is he who is responsible for the constable who oversteps the mark– such as the constable who can be seen on you tube adjusting his coat and fixing his belt only to then apparently arrest a bystander who appears to be no part of any protest at all….. I doubt that is what the act that was passed in the name of the people intended. Similarly the Hymn vigilante is not the best example of common sense policing!

With the Green Brigade– well in one area at least they have to wisen up– and that area is the apparent continual damage to the seats in section 111 where they sit. I was once told that on average 40-50 seats were broken at each game and that in certain games where the protest level is higher, then this damage rises to 80 or 90 seats.

If that is so, then the person responsible for that seat should be made to pay for the damage on each occasion. That is what Fergus McCann would do– just ask those who tried to claim compensation from the wee man for the interrupted satellite signal caused by the new north stand. When they couldn’t, or more accurately wouldn’t, produce a TV licence …. well Fergus never heard from them again and kept his money in his pocket. No matter who you were or who you supported– you didn’t mess with Fergus or his stadium!

Don’t get me wrong, I am told that the seat damage is accidental and is not deliberate– it happens when the young ones jump about— though motive does not really matter—- as the law stands it just shouldn’t happen. It is after all Celtic’s stadium and it should not be damaged by anyone– whether accidentally or otherwise!

There would be uproar if another team’s fans damaged Celtic seats.

Of course the club is bound by the law– a law which says we shall have all seated stadia and that patrons ( fans ) have to be seated.

That law came into being as a result of the Taylor report in the aftermath of the dreadful events of Hillsborough. Regrettably, Lord Justice Taylor reached his conclusions having relied heavily on the evidence of the Police force charged with implementing the law and proper procedures as they then stood.

Regrettably, it turns out that the Police force concerned lied and fabricated evidence to suit their own ends, and so all that they said before the learned judge has to be deemed unreliable and viewed with the utmost caution.

For Celtic football club, the Buck stops with Peter Lawell– the Chief Executive Officer.

I have never met Mr Lawell, and as Alex Salmond says each week when talking about the Prime Minister, I have no plans to meet him in the immediate future.

When it comes to Peter Lawell everyone should have a look at Harry Truman and listen to what the 33rd President said about being “in office”.

Truman headed the executive branch of the United States Government and to all intents and purposes was the “Chief” executive.  Truman presented to Congress a 21-point program, proposing the expansion of Social Security, a full-employment program, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Act, and public housing and slum clearance. The program, Truman wrote, “symbolizes for me my assumption of the office of President in my own right.”………………………… It became known as the FAIR Deal as opposed to FDR’s New deal.

Yet when it came to friends Truman advised that in his world you better get a dog– because the big cheese never pleases everyone and rarely pleases anyone– fully.

Lawell’s job is to look after the club and the interests of the PLC in particular– he is bound by contract to do that  to the best of his ability. In so doing he is undoubtedly going to upset some folk both inside and outside the club, shareholder and non shareholder. That is why the buck and the bucks stop with him.

I have no doubt he could do some things better, and there are undoubtedly areas where I believe that the Celtic board have acted or reacted wrongly– or at least where I would have taken another course– but then my course would not best please everyone either– that is the price of Governance. Strangely it is not a popularity contest………. some people and some organisations are still to learn that.

I have no doubt that Peter Lawell is a Celtic fan and has proven himself in many respects a good CEO.

However, this legislation and the political shenanigans that surround its implementation mean that he has to have eyes in the back of his head to see who will stab him in the chest next.

The Police want information- perhaps demand information– because they say they are entitled to it, or because if they don’t get it they will make adverse reports to the Licensing authority which could theoretically result in the closure of the stadium, or because they will withdraw co-operation that Celtic may one day badly need… or whatever.

What does the CEO do?

He has to look after the PLC first and the fans later.

That is the system that wee Fergus left us with– flawed but the best we have at the moment.

Similarly, The President has to look after the interests of the country first– and drag the electorate along later on some occasions– and you will never appeal to all of the electorate.

The CEO he has to make a judgement call– often based on the information available to him or her, and often based on the quality of the advice he is given by those round about him. Poor info and poor advice leads to poor decisions– good advice and good info leads to good decisions.

If you get the reputation for making the right call and taking the right course, then the authorities ( including the Police ) are more likely to come to you with a proposal and reach an agreement on a way forward in any situation.

In the meantime, everyone wants a piece of your ass for saying the right thing or the wrong thing– for saying something or nothing, for saying something too late or too quickly.

What is often forgotten is what lead to the circumstances whereby you needed or were forced into having to say something at all– and it is here where the ordinary fan comes in. It is here where the football fan has to protest and complain, to stand up for the right to be a football fan and be treated exactly the same way as everyone else– the concert goer, the rugby fan, the golf spectator and the racing punter.

No criminalisation. No stigmas. No Hounding, Kettling and discrimination.

Organisations like the Celtic Trust– and other fan based groups must be given as much support as possible — first so that they actually represent the views of the fans and secondly so that their representations and areas of expertise are actually heard and considered by the CEO and his board.

If you stay quiet as a mouse you will always be…… a mouse!

Harry Truman once said that he had two choices in life– he could either be a pianist in a whorehouse or a politician – and then added that there wasn’t much to choose between the two!

When he retired from the Whitehouse he drove off in his car with his wife and belongings and returned to the little house that his wife had inherited in Independence Missouri. For a number of years he lived off nothing more than his army and state pension—- there was no Presidential Pension.

There were no secret servicemen to stand guard at the house or following behind in a separate car on the journey home to Missouri. Truman refused all offers to join boards of directors at inflated salaries saying ” You don’t want me, you want the office of the President ( of the United States ) and it belongs to the people– it is not for sale!”— Goodbye.

Everyone should remember that there will be those in and out of football who will seek to play politics with, and put pressure on, Peter Lawell– not because he is Peter Lawell– but because he is the Chief Executive Officer of Glasgow Celtic…… a position which means the Buck stops there and which is not for sale……. or political hijack by anyone.

As for Alex Salmond and his legislative……… the 33rd President introduced what became known as ” The fair Deal” as described above.

The Football fan in Scotland can only imagine what life under a fair deal would be like.

George Square, Saturday, 12 Noon.

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4 Responses to “The 33rd President of the United States and his Lesson for Celtic Football Club and Alex Salmond.”

  1. fin rae (@fin49) April 4, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    As usual a wonderful piece of writing full of good sense and common sense.
    Wouldn’t it be superb if the police and politicians treated football fans as people and not criminals!

  2. iceman63 April 4, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    They did treat fans as human after Hillsborough and for a number of years we saw fans behaviour apparently improve. In reality all we saw was police behaviour improve towards fans. Since the SNP rise to power the police have been emboldened under the leadership of Mr House and the political numpties of Salmond McCaskill et al to resort to the fascistic nonsense they employed in the Eighties. Does not augur well should we vote for independence. A police state under Herr Salmond beckons I fear.
    Very good article.

    • ayerightnaw April 5, 2013 at 9:37 am #

      Excellent analysis as ever. Don’t envy PL’s dilemma but club should get on front foot in getting its message and position across – at moment both seem unclear.

    • Gav April 5, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      iceman,
      i have voiced my independence fears in forums other than this but you should rest assured in the knowledge that the snp will not exist post-independence, in the same guise. They are a loose conglomerate of political ideals united under a common banner. if independence is achieved then the conflicting ideologies will rent them asunder. The worry then becomes whose votes will the stricken party covet. If only Trueman (has there ever been a more fitting surname for a man?) had a scottish grannie.

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